Motivation = Discipline, Process, Rhythm

If you were to take a moment and peruse online literature about fitness, you would likely come across witty keywords and phrases centered on intrinsic motivation and perseverance. There is so much of this shit out there; it makes me sick. It is almost like people need to be reminded how to accomplish their goals and need a little pep talk every day to function.  Much of this proverbial vomit comes from self-proclaimed fitness experts that feel that they have the answer for you as it pertains to reaching your personal fitness goals via motivational malarkey, worthless step-by-step lists, and nebulous snippets of “advice” aimed to appease a laymen reader.  Most of it is a steaming pile of excrement. Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredibly knowledgeable fitness gurus out there, but there are much more who are not.

Let me stop there for a minute and say that I indeed do not have a Ph.D. in nutritional science or exercise physiology, and I do not claim to be a health and fitness professional or motivational speaker. The truth of the matter is that I found the gym at 14-years-old. The minute I stepped into a gym, I felt safe…it was my place…a place to clear my mind and get to work. For me, the results are, and always have been icing on the cake, but competing, or getting bigger and stronger was never my motivation. With that said, I truly believe that online “noise” and relying on “professional advice” as a source of motivation to improve yourself is detrimental to overall progress. In no way does this mean that you should not educate yourself and learn how different exercise movements impact different muscles, how to perform exercises correctly, or in what way to adjust macronutrient intake to maximize results properly. I am all for learning new things and expanding my knowledge.

The bottom line is that we are all individuals with individual needs and perceptions of the environment around us. There is no hack or “one size fits all” solution to our mental or physical existence and what we deem a success. There is no external source of motivation that will sustain the test of time.

If you truly want to accomplish something, you are going to do it, and you are going to see it through. You may have some barriers that you need to overcome (we all do), but you will find a way to succeed. You won’t need assistance from a book or some online social media factotum who makes life look so easy and who makes you wonder what you are doing wrong. By the same token, if you are not committed to yourself, and rely on external sources of motivation, you will soon start making excuses why you will not be able to achieve your goals. I am certainly guilty of boarding the excuse train…we all are.  It is easy to make a marriage, children, and a demanding professional career an excuse for not doing something for yourself. There are many other “excellent excuses” as well.

With that said, I want to offer the following thoughts on what works for me as it pertains to planting the seed of motivation and then ensuring strong roots take hold. I am not offering advice, just my thoughts. I believe that motivation is not a naturally sustaining phenomenon. Just think about it for a minute. Remember the last time you got excited about something and decided that you were going to go out there and take over the world? On the first day, you had goosebumps, energy, and were kicking ass and taking names. You felt the same way on the second day, but your energy levels were not quite as high as they were on the first day. On the third day, you got distracted, made an excuse for yourself, and decided to pick up where you left off the following day. On the fourth day, another excuse emerged, and then another, and another, and before you knew it you were telling yourself you would try again in a few months when the “time was right.” What went wrong? How did you fail?

Let’s swing back to my statement about the non-sustaining nature of motivation. Without discipline, a process, and rhythm, the scenario I described will happen every time you attempt to go after a personal goal. In other words, the key to sustaining motivation is viewing it as a process versus some supernatural force that should permeate every aspect of your existence. This approach, in my opinion, is even more critical if you already have a hectic personal and professional life. So how can motivation be looked at as a process? Let’s look at what I am saying a different way. Let’s pretend you want to start a company that manufactures basketballs. The goal is to create high-quality basketballs that consumers will purchase from retail locations who carry your product. To achieve your vision, you cannot merely wish the basketballs to appear, nor can you take a haphazard approach to producing basketballs by setting up shop in your garage. The only way to accomplish your goal is to implement a disciplined, tangible and realistic process that ensures the output of high-quality basketballs. If the motivation is to create basketballs, you need to find a real way to get there. So, let’s say you come up with this impressive and efficient manufacturing process to produce said basketballs. You’ve applied Lean, and Six Sigma management principles and you know your method is tight. Guess what? You are still going to pump out a certain percentage of basketballs that do not pass quality assurance/quality control standards. Does that mean your process is faulty? No. Every process has failures, and the only way to improve upon shortcomings is to accept them for what they are and implement appropriate mitigation strategies.

The same manufacturing example described can be applied to fitness motivation and sustaining a consistent output of motivation to achieve the desired result. Some of what I am referencing in this post is highlighted in my last piece titled “A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish.”  If you have a few minutes to burn, I encourage you to check it out. The way I’ve approached process development for my personal fitness goals is first to identify what I want to achieve. With a goal in mind, I then developed a plan or process to keep myself accountable, and most importantly, I established a daily rhythm, more conventionally known as a routine. I am not just talking about a workout routine; I am talking about a life routine.

To honestly stay committed and motivated, I firmly believe that you must keep beating the drum, you must stay on task, and your daily rhythm must become second nature.

You must get to the point where you feel incomplete if you miss a workout or miss a meal. You must get to the point where you think you’ve failed if you don’t wake up when your alarm clock sounds in the wee hours of the morning while most of the world is still sleeping. That, in my opinion, is when you know you’ve turned the corner, you’ve established a rhythm, and true discipline is taking hold. With that said, you are still going to be bumps in the road…you will always come up against personal challenges, but you will know how to get past them, and you won’t need help from an external source to get you there.

Since I launched Reignite, I’ve swerved off the road many times. I’ve missed some workouts. I’ve fallen short on my daily caloric intake and macronutrient ratios. I’ve gone to bed too late and slept through my “workout” alarm only to be jostled out of bed by my “you better get your ass up now, or you are going to be late for work alarm.” I am not perfect. We are not perfect. The key is not to make excuses for the bumps and let them become consistent. I look at each missed workout or missed meal as an opportunity to get better…a chance to development process improvement strategies to avoid future defects and improve my pass/fail rate.

The overall goal is to have a significantly higher percentage of good days than bad days and to continue pursuing perfection while realizing perfection is impossible.

The only way to achieve that goal is through discipline, a process, and rhythm. Keep grinding my friends.

A goal without a plan is just a wish

For as long as I can remember, I have attempted to establish a New Year’s resolution. It is something you are supposed to do, right? Let’s pick some big lofty goal, unrealistic or not, and tell everyone what we are going to accomplish during the new year. Lose weight…check, stop drinking…check, be a better parent…check, achieve a better work-life balance…check. Does this sound familiar? You are probably shaking your head yes. Don’t worry, as I said previously I am no stranger to New Year’s resolutions. Of all the years that I’ve tried to uphold a resolution contract to myself, I cannot recall one time that I ever wholly achieved my resolution goals. If I were to take a wild guess, I’d say most people are the same way.

There is always some excuse or some reason why we were not able to accomplish the goal we so energetically established for the new year. A life change, a career change, and unexpected problem or barrier…there is always something, right?  I thought about this a lot today, especially after seeing so many new faces at the gym over the last few days. The gym is always a pleasant place to visit this time of the year. Oodles of new members pack every inch of the floor. They all look determined, motivated, and ready to get to work on achieving their individual fitness goals for the new year.  As the days and weeks, progress, fewer and fewer of the newcomers are present until eventually they are almost all gone. I always wonder what happened; what stopped them from coming to the gym. I never judge as we all have our own lives, our priorities, and make our own decisions.

Often, I think New Year’s resolutions fail because we do not plan correctly and create systems of accountability. It is easy to say you want to improve your physical fitness, lose 10 pounds, run a marathon, or compete in Olympic lifting or bodybuilding, but it will never happen without a tangible and realistic plan.

To put it another way, no bank on the face of the earth will consider giving you a loan to start a business without a strong business plan, and without that credit, your dream of being a small business owner is dashed.  The same can be said for individual fitness goals, or any goal for that matter – without a plan, there is no success.

Let’s say for example your goal is to lose 10 pounds. Bravo! You have a purpose! Now, what practical actions are you going to take to get there? Your answer may be to change your diet and start doing some exercise. Well, that’s good, but you need to go further. Based on your weight loss goal, what food do you need to eat, what is your appropriate macronutrient ratio, and caloric intake? How will your food intake need to be adjusted when you start exercising? How often should you be eating? How much water should you be drinking? How much sleep do you need? How will you keep yourself accountable? As you can see, just a simple goal of losing ten pounds can become quite complicated when we are talking about appropriate planning – and this is where most people become frustrated and eventually fail. I’ve been there…we’ve all been there.

With that said, I want to share with you some of the active steps I am taking to achieve my fitness goals this year. As mentioned in previous posts, my goal is to compete on the bodybuilding stage as a physique competitor in August.

  • Developed an initial 8-week workout routine as part of my build phase (This routine includes 20 minutes of cardio daily, and will be changed up for the second 8 weeks). You can view the workout here: Reignite_8WeekBuild
  • Established time of day workouts will be completed (5:00 a.m. – 6:15 a.m. Monday – Friday; 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Saturday; Rest on Sunday)
  • Regular bedtime established for 9:30 p.m. – no exceptions.
  • Established a caloric intake of 3,090 calories per day using MyFitnessPal aimed at increasing bodyweight .5 pounds per week.
  • Established macronutrient ratio at approximately 45 percent carbohydrates (350g), 30 percent protein (250g), 25 percent fat (88g).
  • Became a member of a local healthy food kitchen. The kitchen prepares food from scratch based on dietary needs and delivers to the home on Tuesday and Friday mornings. To start, I will be receiving a total of 10 custom meals per week to help supplement my food intake during the day.

For the sake of brevity (I know this post is already long), I will stop there, but I think you probably get the point. A plan is crucial to the success of any goal. After your plan is developed, you must make good on your plan as change does not occur without action.

Once you invest the time in your plan and begin executing, your goal will become a priority in your life…and that is the recipe for success. After all, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

For those of you who have a goal for 2018, whether you call it a New Year’s resolution or not, make sure you have a realistic plan comprised of actionable steps to move the dial forward. Carefully designed and deliberate tactics win battles, and when you win battles, you win the war. Have patience, act, don’t quit, and win. Happy New Year!